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Paintings > Hindu > Goddess > Goddess Saraswati Rising from Ocean
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Goddess Saraswati Rising from Ocean

Goddess Saraswati Rising from Ocean

Goddess Saraswati Rising from Ocean

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Water Color Painting On Paper
Artist: Kailash Raj

9 inch x 11.5 inch
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Time required to recreate this artwork: 6 to 8 weeks
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Viewed 19818 times since 30th May, 2013
A work of Kailash Raj, one of a few talented and the best known contemporary artists in miniature-style, India’s age-old tradition, her distinction and global identity in art, the painting represents Saraswati, the goddess of art, music, poetry and every aspect of learning and creativity, as emerging from ocean riding a lotus. Though the flower the goddess is seated on is lotus, her seat as classified in early texts, it has been styled more like Dahlia, a large size multi-petalled garden flower in various shades and with as large petals as lotus. Whatever its form, perhaps a little altered for a contemporary viewer better acquainted with the urban Dahlia, the flower’s identity as lotus is well indicated. Lotus has in Indian iconographic tradition deep and long association with divine imagery, especially Saraswati who is lauded in early texts as 'Asina kamala karairjjapabatim padmadhyam pustakam bivrana' – lotus-seated she carries a ‘japamala’, lotuses, and a ‘pustaka’. Apart, the lotus has, as here in this masterpiece, its origin from water, mythically the ocean, and has along it a well-defined lotus-leaf serving as the goddess’s foot-rest.

Not in the painting of Kailash Raj alone, in her subsequent iconography this position in regard to lotus, especially those carried in her hands, had largely changed; however, lotus continued, though only seldom, to be her seat. In later iconographic tradition after lotus became an inseparable part of Lakshmi’s imagery ‘vina’ replaced the lotuses that goddess Saraswati carried in her hands, her attribute other than the ‘pustaka’ and ‘japamala’. ‘Vina’ symbolized music and fine arts of which goddess Saraswati was the presiding deity. Quite meaningfully, instead of ‘vina’ Kailash Raj has preferred an elephant goad and a noose as her attributes to alternate lotuses. In early tradition Saraswati, different from Brahma’s coy mistress – a mere divine presence, was a demon-slayer : a goddess of battlefield.

Though Kailash Raj seems to have borrowed elephant goad and noose from this initial iconography of the goddess, he does not build her image as demon-slayer or as slayer at all. The mother who creates and is the progenitor of the entire creation and all creative faculties does not annihilate but leads instead to the right path the erring ones by dragging and goading with her noose and the deep piercing elephant goad – the instrument of correction. Kailash Raj arms the goddess of his imagination with goad and noose that correct the wrong doer but do not destroy any. As for her other attributes, rosary and book, rosary relates to commemoration, the one mode of which is recitation which involves music, besides transcendence, spiritual elevation and one’s ultimate union with the Supreme, and the book, all stores and ages of knowledge that scriptures contain. Obviously, the rosary already symbolized what the subsequent ‘vina’ did. Thus, in his set of attributes Kailash Raj widened the symbolic breadth of the image to a far greater extent.

Rendered against a grayish background, the half towards the bottom blended with light green, streaks of magenta and the grey itself representing ocean, and the upper half, representing sky, the four-armed lotus-riding goddess appears to be emerging goddess Lakshmi like from under the ocean. In visual tradition such emergence is attributed to goddess Lakshmi who, after the ocean was churned, is believed to rise from under Kshirasagara – the ocean of milk. As if emerging along her, a lotus-leaf rises from under the waters supporting the goddess’s left foot on it. Seated in ‘lalitasana’, the left leg suspending down and right, in semi-Yogasana posture, the figure of the goddess reveals absolute ease. The rosary holding normal right hand is in the gesture as if turning beads, and the text-carrying left, as if in the mid of going through it. Representing absolute purity the goddess has been conceived, besides her ensemble revealing transparence, with a goose, the symbol of purity, as her subsidiary imagery symbolizing her purity. The goddess with round face, large eyes, rare beauty of face and abounding in youthful vigour, elegantly modeled, splendidly bejeweled and majestically crowned, reveals the great lustre for which Puranas lauded her as : ‘param jyoti-swarupa’, one who is the ultimate lustre.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books. .

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